Texas Considering Giving State Funding to Anti-Arizona Immigration Film 'Machete'

May 18th, 2010 1:10 PM
Taxpayers may be forced to foot a portion of the bill for a new movie that has become a stark -- and violent -- message against the recently passed Arizona immigration law. The liberal political stance is nothing new in the movie world. That the film is still being considered for indirect public funding, however, is quite striking.

An online trailer for the film "Machete," released on Cinco de Mayo (and embedded below the fold), begins with the title character saying he has a "special message...to Arizona!" That special message, as the New York Post writes, seems to be "They just f---ed with the wrong Mexican."

Some commentators believe that the film could actually provoke violence. But at the very least, "Machete" seems to be making a very strong and provocative political statement about an extremely divisive issue -- while at the same time applying for tax breaks from the Texas state government. So Texans may be forced to help pay for a statment to which -- if national polls are any indicator -- many are opposed.

Big Hollywood's John Nolte, among others, believes that "Machete" could promote a dangerous message in the midst of a heated debate. Nolte accused director Robert Rodriguez of trying to "profit from telling lies about Arizona's immigration law and mak[ing] infamous history by stoking a race war."

Hey, does that make Rodriguez a war-profiteer? Methinks it does.

We all know that if the situation were reversed, if the film's hook was Caucasian Border Minutemen declaring a race war on Mexican Illegals, no one would find that acceptable. Sure, we live in a free country where such a project would be legal, but not acceptable...

It's not Rodriguez's fault that an idea he's had for years is about to be realized in the middle of the Arizona debate. But the multi-millionaire is no innocent victim of bad timing. The overrated filmmaker grabbed the Arizona issue by both lapels and intentionally exploited the situation to gin up attention to his project.

The controversy raised overt political message is only compounded by the possibility that the film could be given preferential tax treatment by the Texas state government.

The Texas Film Commission, which is part of the governor's office, is considering "Machete" for a 5 to 15 percent tax break under the office's Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, which aims to spur economic activity by encoring filmmakers to operate in the state.

I contacted the Director of the Texas Film Commission, Bob Hudgins, who was adamant that "Machete" had not yet been approved for funding. Hudgins would not comment on whether the trailer -- and its strong political message -- rendered the project inappropriate for State tax breaks, insisting that "Machete" would be judged based solely on the finished product (the film is slated to be released in September), rather than on a preliminary script or trailer.

The statute creating the Commission gives it the power to decline tax incentives to films with "inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion" and directs the Commission to "consider general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the citizens of Texas."

It must fall to the viewer to decide whether "Machete" is or will be "inappropriate" or whether it respects "general standards of decency." But a statement not only extremely dismissive of, but even outright hostile to a position held by a clear majority of the nation (though no internal Texas polls have been taken) cannot reasonably be considered as respecting a diversity of beliefs. It respects one belief -- that the Arizona immigration law is wrong -- while condemning opposing beliefs in as strong terms as a movie trailer possibly could.